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Michelle Minch jokes that she’s been an interior designer for most of her life. “I grew up in a house with kelly-green carpet, a faux marble foyer floor, and silver-flocked wallpaper,” she says. “I guess you could say that my life’s work has been trying to prevent that kind of design from happening to anyone else.” Minch moved to L.A. in 1978 and started working as a studio manager for a commercial photographer. She eventually became a stylist, then went Hollywood, working as a set decorator then production designer on films such as Pet Sematary II and Kill Me Again and music videos such as Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It.” She started getting requests from film colleagues to help design their homes. Minch, who incorporated her interior design company, Moving Mountains Design, in 1994, continues to work as a production designer. “I love working as a production designer because it allows me to really flex my creative muscles and I have to be fast on my feet. Decisions are made very quickly. And I love being an interior designer because, unlike a set, my designs are more permanent and, hopefully, make life more enjoyable for my clients. I think that having a foot in the interior design world and a foot in the film world makes me better at both. It’s all very stimulating.”
Moving Mountains Design, (626) 441-8975 or

Difference between design and decorating: Interior design is mainly concerned with space planning, and interior decorating is generally concerned with what is put into or applied to the space, such as fabrics, furniture and paint. I am a full-service designer and decorator. I can do it all, from the initial design and space planning to the final installation of the furniture, including coordinating various contractors and craftsmen and sourcing all the materials.

Design philosophy: Design should be client-specific and site- specific. I don’t have a “one-design-fits-all” approach. I don’t have a signature style. Maybe that’s because of my experience in the film industry. Each of my projects looks very different from the others, because the needs and tastes of each client are different, the problems to be solved are different and location, period and architecture are different. Each job, like each client, is distinct unto itself. I want my interior design to fit each client like a custom-made couture suit or dress. I would say that most of my work has a European eclectic sensibility. I love to mix periods and styles and make unexpected things work together. I travel a lot and often find interesting objects, materials and fabrics, or find new resources. I endeavor to create environments that are intellectually and creatively stimulating. And I want the most bang for my clients’ buck. At its best, interior design should meld the needs and desires of the client with the knowledge, experience and creative sensibilities of the designer. We, as

interior designers, should be able to appreciably improve upon not just the appearance, but also the comfort and functionality of the spaces we are designing.

What did you want to accomplish with your design on this project? I wanted to give my clients a beautiful, comfortable and functional place to come home to. I wanted to provide a room that was bright, colorful and uplifting. We settled on a beach cottage/Caribbean style. I think I succeeded for the most part, but what is more important to me is that they are thrilled with the way the place has turned out. An unexpected bonus of this project is that I have become very close with my “clients.” I feel like we are family.

What are the questions people should ask themselves before starting to redo a room or a home? The first two questions they should ask themselves are: 1. What do I wish to accomplish? and 2. How much am I willing to spend to accomplish that goal? It is very important to have a clear goal and a clear idea of the budget before you start. After that they should decide if they need an interior designer by asking if they trust their own design sense enough to satisfactorily complete the project, if they have the time to take on the project and if they have access to all the suppliers and craftsmen they will need. Do they know where to find everything and everyone? If the answer is no to any of these questions, then they should seriously consider hiring a designer. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a good designer will save them money and stress, and bring knowledge and experience to the mix. They should be very comfortable communicating with the designer and confident that they will be working toward a similar outcome. Also, they should make sure that they have selected a designer with a similar aesthetic. Always check a designer’s references.

Shopping tips: For the Internet-savvy on a tight budget, Craigslist and eBay are wonderful. The Huntington Collection Thrift Store in Pasadena gets some pretty high-end donations, including antiques and collectibles. And you can find some nice, inexpensive accessories at places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Also, many higher-end stores have an area of markdowns or damaged merchandise. Ask. Sometimes they are not easy to spot, and some great bargains can be found.

The entertainment center, which was moved to the opposite side of the room where it hides a heater that is never used (it also balances the other large pieces of furniture in the room), is about the only piece that remained. Satin-finish paint was used for easy cleaning — necessary with three kids — and living plants added “some pizzazz in an inexpensive way,” says Michelle, who even did a little dumpster diving in search of a deal — a first for this high-end designer. She also invested in a ceiling fan — found for 20 percent off — not only for much-needed ventilation but to bring down the height of the ceiling to a more human scale. And, she points out, it always pays to shop around: The mirrors she bought for the found frames were 30 percent cheaper at Superior than other shops she called. It also helps to think of different uses for common objects: Michelle turned coat hooks into curtain-rod brackets when she couldn’t find off-the-rack hooks in the right size.

From the Rose Bowl Flea Market (held every second Sunday of the month)

Three bamboo stacking tables, $40
One Van Gogh and one Matisse print, $10 each
Wood bowl, $3
Rotating picture frame, $5
Four large seashells, $7.50
Tablecloth, $30

From the Salvation Army, Pasadena

Three Chinese paintings on bamboo, $21.65
Glass vase, $1.08

From the Huntington Collection Thrift Store Annex, Pasadena

Dining table, $43.80
Two dining chairs, $10.83


Sisal rug (Tarnby), $128.82
Kitchen rug (Iris), $4.32

From OSH

Potted palm and paint, $33.53
Miscellaneous hardware to hang curtains, curtain rings, and two more
plants, $35.77

From yard sales

Coffee table, $20
Two iron lamps and shades, $10
Planter basket, $2

Silk tulips, $15.08 from Pottery Barn

Curtain and pillow fabric, $72 from Silk Trading Company

Wall clock, $16.23 from Target

Wall paint and supplies, $32.66 from Home Depot

Bamboo curtain rod, $2.79 from Moskatels

Mirror for window frames found in a Burbank trash pile, $46 from

Superior Glass, Silver Lake

Hunter Douglas ceiling fan/light, $80.38 from Expo Design Center

Dish towels, $6.39 from Crate and Barrel

Three ceramic trivets and a jar, $14.03 from Ross Dress For Less

TOTAL: $1,002.36 (with tax)

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